Fleeing War, Encountering Racism

Dominick Pasco looks into discrimination being faced by African students, migrant workers and others at Ukraine’s borders.

A map of train stations bordering Poland, Romania, and Hungary, where Africans in Ukraine are now trying to flee through.

Amid the crisis in Ukraine, African citizens, mostly composed of Nigerians, say they are being denied passage out of the country because of racial discrimination.

Many stories on social media are appearing to show Polish and Ukrainian officials only allowing white Ukrainians to cross borders while Africans are being held back. Western media are reporting about Africans being thrown off trains heading to border areas.

Previously Africans did not have the privilege of visa-free travel throughout the European Union, which includes Poland, Hungary, and Romania, but due to the war, countries in the EU are now waiving that requirement.

Videos of Nigerians being prevented from getting onto trains are also flooding Twitter, Instagram, and Tik Tok. Some border patrols are said to be attacking African citizens with batons and chasing them away from train stations.

The Nigerian Premium Times reports that around 4,000 Nigerian students were studying in Ukraine at the start of the conflict but are unclear with how many Nigerian citizens have actually been able to cross into neighboring countries like Hungary and Romania at this point.

Footage of African citizens sleeping outside in extreme cold, with their belongings, is now surfacing. Twitter posts appear to show border forces pointing weapons at Africans as well.

Though the Polish and Ukrainian border forces and other officials deny claims they are discriminating against anyone based on nationality or race, many news outlets are reporting otherwise in addition to all the social media content.

Some reports indicate that several hotels in these border regions have also expressed they are allowing “Ukrainians only.” Many Africans that did make it across said they either waited excruciatingly long hours or days to enter Poland or forced themselves onto trains.

The Nigerian government has made several statements condemning the treatment of its citizens, mostly composed of traveling students and migrant workers. Their only hope is that the situation becomes less chaotic and that Africans inside Ukraine are allowed to reach neighboring countries safely.

Africans have been sharing their experiences online using the #AfricansinUkraine hashtag which has led to some crowdfunding to help them. Polish officials have said all that’s needed to cross a border right now is a passport, or identity card, even when expired, and that no visas are currently needed. Ukrainian officials were quoted as saying Ukrainian men aren’t allowed to leave as they are being called on to fight in the war, and that perhaps some of the Africans were pushed back because “they were jumping the [line].”

Explainer Journalism by Dominick Pasco for the Reynolds Sandbox

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